Last week, I was feeling a little in need for some fresh fruit in my life. Some fresh Fruit of the Spirit, that is. The first characteristic listed as “fruit” in the Fruit of the Spirit, is Love. As I was contemplating Love, one thing kept going through my mind. It’s a song that Frank Sinatra sang called “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” What the heck does that even mean anyway? But it got me to thinking that there’s no shortage of songs, movies and books that portray an idea of what love is – wonderful, beautiful, passionate, all champagne and roses and happily ever after. We’re led to believe that being “in love” is the pinnacle of achievement emotionally, and when we finally attain that, everything will be okay. Wrong. Like anything else in life that matters, love takes work.
Love, real love, is so much more than a feeling. It’s an emotion that we experience in many kinds of relationships. There is love in familial relationships. There is love in romantic relationships. There is love in platonic relationships. There is love in the relationships we have with our pets. There is even love in chocolate relationships! Certainly there’s a difference in the types and the depths of love we may feel, and that’s ok. Obviously, you’re going to have a stronger love for your child than your friend. You may even have a stronger love for a dear friend than you would for a family member, based on the specific relationships involved. It is important to mention that love is only as healthy as the person who loves.
Love is also a choice and an action. Sometimes we have to choose to love even when we don’t feel like it. When we’ve been hurt by someone we love, it’s not easy moving past the pain, but it can be done if choose to do so. The Bible tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. If we really love someone, we can forgive them when they’ve hurt us or let us down. If we really love someone, we can choose to see beyond their actions, to know their heart and believe in them even when they’ve disappointed us. Special Note: Love is not abusive. If you are in an abusive situation, get help and get out, especially if there are children involved.
The love between a woman and a man can be powerful and passionate, but when the passion fades, what’s left? If they had real love, built on a solid foundation with friendship, shared beliefs, common interests and real commitment, then they still have all of that and their relationship has not crumbled. Passion is good, but there is a natural ebb and flow with passion, it is fluid, not something you can build up or stand on in times of trouble. If that’s all you have, then really you have nothing to hold on to.
There is another kind of love that can occur between a parent and a child. This is a love that is felt no matter what. This love enables a parent to sacrifice their own needs or wants to provide for their child. This love turns a mild-mannered, polite, decent person into a raging, fierce and fearless force to be reckoned with, when their child is in danger. This love gives a parent the strength to go without sleep when their child is sick and to mete out discipline when necessary, to build character and teach the difference between right and wrong. Sadly, this is not experienced by every child, because like any other type of love and relationship, the love that is given is only as healthy as the person who is giving it and if a parent is unhealthy emotionally, they are unable to express or even experience a healthy kind of love.
The best, sweetest and most pure form of love is the love God has for us. It is called agape and it is the only kind of love that is completely without condition. God loves us so much He sent His own Son to die on a cross for us. He loves us so much, that He forgives us when we ask Him to, no matter what we’ve done, and see’s us as His child, forgetting what He’s even forgiven us for. This agape love is what we all want, to know that someone loves us no matter what. When we experience this kind of love, it changes us. It helps us to love others more freely, more compassionately, more unselfishly. It helps us to love the unlovely, and to forgive the unforgiveable. This kind of love is available to all of us, but it’s up to us. We have to choose to receive it.
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” ~ Psalm 103:11-13